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Darkly Ambient Americana Instrumentalists Suss Headline an Enveloping, Inviting Brooklyn Triplebill Tomorrow Night

In 2018 this blog called cinematic instrumental group Suss “the missing link between Brian Eno and Ennio Morricone – or the Lost Patrol without the drums.” They were a quintet then. Tragically, they’ve been whittled down to a trio after the sudden 2021 loss of keyboardist Gary Lieb, but they keep putting out frequently mesmerizing, sometimes Lynchian deep-sky themes. Their latest album is a double-cd release comprising both their Heat Haze southwestern travelogue suite and their even more nocturnal Night Suite along with new material.

They’re headlining a great lineup tomorrow night, Feb 8 at around 10 PM at Public Records, that shi-shi monstrosity in the former Retrofret space north of Gowanus. As a bonus, deadpan and often hilariously lyrical new wave pop spoofers Office Culture open the night at 8ish, followed by the trippy electroacoustic trio of saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi, bassist Paul Bryan and drummer Jeremy Cunningham. Cover is pretty steep for a show like this, presumably $24 since the venue is one of many in Brooklyn who seem to be oblivious to the rising popularity of #cashalways and are still trying to make it with the goofy pennies-and-nickels online ticketing fad.

Both Suss’ Night Suite and Heat Haze got the thumbs-up here. The new tracks – the first several of which you can hear at Bandcamp – are just as drifty and evocative. Beyond Jonathan Gregg’s resonant pedal steel and spare dobro, it’s impossible to tell whether that’s Pat Irwin or Bob Holmes on the many other guitar and keyboard tracks. The first is a miniature, Winter Is Hard, rising from a delicate little piano figure to a flaring slide guitar peak and then out.

The band blend keening ebow textures, slow doppler effects, stalagmite piano drips and icepick reverb guitar incisions in North Wind. The most lingering thing in Linger is the gentle, precise acoustic guitar and the reverbtoned steel over the puffing, echoey loops in the background. Everything Is So Beautiful is steady and sad and Lynchian, and over too soon.

By now, the band are working variations on that initial crystalline three-note theme, notably in the rising and falling icy/hot textures of The First Thaw. Then they reprise Winter Was Hard with some unexpected timbres like autoharp and some gritty mechanical whirs.

At this point, you will have to switch to yucky Spotify to hear the rest of the record. Across the Horizon is aptly vast but peppered with warmly anticipatory fragments of blues and C&W riffs. The band warp the sustain a little in Ranger as a solitary acoustic guitar surveys the great plains, then in Shimmer (Reflection) they bring back the delicate quasar pulse: a distant Blue Velvet galaxy.

Holmes breaks out his mandolin and slowly works his way up in the mix in That Good Night. They waft their way out with the gentle phrases in The Open Door, shifting slowly through a characteristically twilit tableau.

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A Stormy, Thrilling Carnegie Hall Return For Kariné Poghosyan

Wednesday night at Carnegie Hall, pianist Kariné Poghosyan picked where she left off after a meticulously intuitive and thunderously applauded performance of Rachmaninoff and Stravinsky there in November, 2019. That New Yorkers had to wait so long for a reprise is a crime. Undeterred by the past almost three years, she delivered a similar amount of fireworks and detailed insights to another packed house and several ovations.

The material drew from her latest album, understatedly titled Folk Themes: she is a fierce and articulate exponent of music from her Armenian heritage. Poghosyan’s well-chronicled, dazzling technical prowess is matched by a remarkable attention to content: her performances are akin to a jazz singer who takes the lyrics line by line for maximum emotional impact, not to mention unexpected mirth.

One of the evening’s early highlights was a tender and spacious but playful version of Komitas’ Shushiki, which contrasted with an alternately thunderous and suspenseful version of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Waltz No. 6.

Four lyric pieces by Grieg rounded out the first half of the concert: the alternately hopeful and foreboding To the Spring, the deliciously phantasmagorical March of the Gnomes, the angst-fueled, Rachmaninovian Minuet for Vanished Days, and a rewardingly lithe, understated take of Wedding at Troldhaugen.

There was majesty to match the requisite shreddy intensity in her performance of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12. Yet she found a coy flirtatiousness in how she held back her phrasing, particularly before the lithely dancing music-box interlude, whose dynamics she worked with a similarly dynamic charm. As she played, she would look up, completely overjoyed, leaving no doubt that this was a love song with a happy ending.

By contrast, his Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6 was much more stately and somber. In the beginning, moments of triumph were subsumed in an pervasive pensiveness, Poghosyan exercising considerable restraint with the lefthand and the rhythmic drive while opting for glitter and gleam. Still, she found a swinging passage where she was literally bouncing on the piano bench in the seconds before throwing caution to the wind and driving it to a careening coda.

Liszt’s Rhapsodie Espagnole fell somewhere in between. This time out, Poghosyan had picked an irridescent green gown instead of the red Trans Am of an outfit she’d worn at the 2019 concert – and she didn’t give the crowd the big bicep flex this time around.

The encores were arguably the highlight of the night. The first was a briskly kinetic, crystalline romp through Babajanian’s gorgeously chromatic Dance of Vagharshapat. The second which has become a signature piece in her repertoire, was an opulent, ecstatic, pointillistically pristine rendition of Kachaturian’s Toccata.

Poghosyan’s next concert in the tri-state area is on March 12 at 2 PM where she joins the Wallingford Symphony Orchestra on a program including works by Prokofiev plus Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Tix are $30.

A Dynamic New Live Album and Some Rare New York Gigs From Purist Saxophonist Jesse Davis

Alto saxophonist Jesse Davis may not be a household name in the New York jazz scene, because he absconded for Italy a couple of decades ago, to forge a career as a deftly lyrical, Mark Turner-esque player and bandleader. The good news is that it seems Davis retained his US citizenship and not only came back, but also became one of the first artists to record a live album in 2022. That record, Live at Smalls Jazz Club is streaming at Bandcamp, which is where he’s playing a rare two-night stand starting tomorrow night, Feb 6, leading a quartet with sets at 7:30 and 9 PM. Then they’ll be at Mezzrow on Feb 10-11, same time, same $25 cover.

The lineup on the album is sympatico: Peter Washington on bass, Joe Farnsworth on drums and Smalls honcho Spike Wilner – with whom Davis has a long history – on piano. And the sound quality is pristine, as albums recorded there tend to be. The quartet open with a carefree take of Jimmy Heath’s Gingerbread Boy: Davis doesn’t waste his time launching into some seemingly effortless, quicksilver glissandos. The misterioso bass-and-drums break after Wilner’s solo really draws you in.

Next is a fond take of the Lee Morgan ballad Ceora, Wilner echoing Davis’ pinpoint articulacy with a similar flair. An expansive version of Cup Bearers, a swing tune popularized by James Moody, becomes a launching pad for some fleet-footed runs from the bandleader and Wilner choosing his spots. Then the group slow down for an aptly pensive but buoyant sway through Theses Foolish Things, Davis fluttering, Washington tiptoeing as Farnsworth flickers and Wilner surveys the spaces between.

They pick up the pace with Horace Silver’s Juicy Lucy, fueled by Davis’ curlicues and weightlessly floating melismas, and Farnsworth’s suddenly animated attack. By the time they get to Rhythm-A-Ning, the band is really simmering, Davis punching in unexpectedly over Farnsworth’s scampering solo.

They wind up the set with a couple of standards. Street of Dreams is where Davis gets more centerstage time than anywhere else: you can imagine the rhythm section just admiringly engaging with a guy they rarely get to see. Likewise, the final number, an allusive take of Love For Sale, is where everybody’s chops get a workout, from the polyrhythmic drive, to Davis’ most biting lines of the night, to arguably Wilner’s fastest playing on record. They really leave you wanting more. Did they get a second set in the can, maybe?

Pensively Drifting Soundscapes and a Falafel Hill Show by Eclectic Film Composer Qasim Naqvi

Qasim Naqvi‘s raison d’etre seems to be getting the max out of the min. As a drummer, he propels the world’s most compellingly hypnotic live dancefloor instrumentalists, Dawn of Midi. Prior to the 2020 lockdown, he was a member of another even more adrenalizing trance-dance band, Innov Gnawa, who were the only oldschool Moroccan gnawa group in this hemisphere. And Naqvi has yet another identity, as a busy film composer. He’s on the bill at Roulette tomorrow night, Feb 5 at 8 PM, playing live soundtracks to Peter Burr video installations along with MIROVAYA LINIYA (Julia Pello & Heinrich Mueller’s dystopically cinematic Heisenberg Principle-influenced duo). You can get in for $25 in advance.

Naqvi’s 2017 album Film, streaming at Bandcamp, may hold the key to what you can expect. It’s a collection of hypnotic, calm and sometimes suspensefully minimalist miniatures from Naqvi’s two soundtracks to Naeem Mohaiemen films on industrial-wasteland themes. It’s best appreciated as a cohesive whole: tune in, bliss out. It’s testament to the fun you can have with oldtime equipment…and get paid for it.

As the set pieces unwind, subtly varied textures drift through the mix, wafting drones punctuated by icy accents. Climbs, echoes and calm/animated contrasts give way to steady doppler waves, which grow further and further apart, a pensive meditation on slow postindustrial decay. Naqvi spices his soundscapes with the occasional wry rhythmic trope or burst of cumulus clouds over the horizon. On the surface, this is very soothing music, but listen closely and you’ll find a persistent unease.

Nixon Omollo Gives Us Eclectic Original Reggae Vibes to Brighten the Winter Chill

Much as pulling together the monthly concert calendar here can be a slog, the work has its rewards. As what’s left of this city continues to emerge from the wreckage that began with the 2020 lockdown, there are auspicious signs that we can return to doing what humans do naturally: getting out and mingling with each other. And just like February, 2020 and before, some unexpected talents are popping up in some of the least expected places. This blog’s favorite discovery this month is Kenyan roots reggae artist Nixon Omollo, who has a show tonight, Feb 3 at 9 PM at Shrine uptown. He has a low-key style on the mic and mixes up a lot of different flavors on his latest album Good Vibes Return, streaming at his Hearnow page. He recorded it in Addis Ababba in 2021: clearly, the Ethiopians knew what time it was even as the west was under a spell of fear and repression.

The first track is Who I Am. It’s a real throwback to a mid-70s Studio One sound. Credit Kenny Allen, who is a one-man band here, layering steady piano, guitar lines from chicken-scratch rhythm to elegant wide-angle chords, and simple basslines over Firaole Kumela’s low-key but colorful drumming. Saxophonist Jonovan Cooper wafts in and out of the picture.

With bright saxes, a little wah-wah guitar, an upbeat bounce and cheery backing vocals from Ebony J, the second track, Come Together has more of a Kaya-era Marley sound. The album’s title track is basically a swaying Central African kora song, with Amadou Diagne adding delicate textures on that ancient instrument over Allen’s organ.

Summertime – an original, not the Gershwin song – has Omollo doing a little dancehall toasting over a vintage roots riddim. The album’s most overtly political track, Speak Out is a fearless, pouncing broadside against political corruption in a general sense – as Sage Hana Productions calls it, “grifters grifting shit.”

Time Yoyote, Place Yoyote features a rap by DJ Scratches in his local patois: it may or may not relate to lockdown madness. The final cut, Hold You Close, could be an early 70s hit by a crooner like John Holt; and yet, Omollo doesn’t shy away from reality here either.

In Memoriam: Tom Verlaine

Television guitarist and co-founder Tom Verlaine, whose distinctive style fused psychedelia, janglerock and in later years ambient music, died suddenly on January 28. He was 73.

Born Tom Miller, Verlaine took the name of one of the French poets whose work he discovered while in his teens. Alongside fellow guitarist Richard Lloyd, bassist Richard Hell and drummer Billy Ficca, Verlaine founded Television in New York in 1975. Although they were not a punk band, they were one of the first groups to have a regular residency at CBGB.

Television’s first two albums, 1977’s Marquee Moon, and Adventure, from a year later, achieved marginal commercial success but were enormously influential on subsequent, jangly guitar bands, from the Soft Boys, to the Larch. Marquee Moon is commonly cited as one of the greatest albums of all time.

In Television, Verlaine’s sinuous, melodic climbs and cascades contrasted with Lloyd’s harder-edged attack, often echoing the Grateful Dead’s two-guitar dichotomy. Where Lloyd would punch in with riffs and chords, Verlaine opted for melodic variations and rarely employed distortion, preferring a clean, ringing Fender guitar sound that drew on surf rock as much as Jerry Garcia and Lou Reed. Many of Television’s songs feature the two guitars exchanging roles and conversational ideas, a common jazz trope that was rare in rock bands of the era.

After the band’s breakup, Verlaine pursued a solo career and focused more on briefer, more pop-oriented songcraft. Verlaine also produced albums for two of the most important, twangy rock bands of the 80s, True West and the Room, as well as two Jeff Buckley cd’s.

Verlaine regrouped Television in 1992, primarily as an instrumental unit, with limited and highly sought-after live performances in the years that followed until he left the band for good in 2007.

Live Music Calendar for New York City and Brooklyn For February 2023

All these concerts are free of restrictions on entry. Weekly events first followed by the daily calendar. If a venue is unfamiliar, look for it on the old guide to NYC music venues here, which is more of a worksheet now, but it has links to most of the places on this calendar.

Tuesdays in February, Inspired, latin-influenced postbop trombonist Conrad Herwig and his septet at the Django, $25.

Thursdays in February, 5 PM poignantly lyrical, eclectic pianist Marta Sanchez at Bar Bayeux. 2/28 at 7:30 PM she leads a trio at Mezzrow, $25

Sundays at around 8 PM trumpeter Jon Kellso and (frequently) guitarist Matt Munisteri lead the Ear-Regulars in NYC’s only remaining weekly hot jazz jam session at the Ear Inn

2/1, 7 PM crystalline-voiced noir Americana songwriter Jessie Kilguss, leads an acoustic evening of some eclectically excellent songwriters: Lizzie Edwards of fiery, psychedelically bluesy oldschool soul/roadhouse jamband Lizzie & the Makers. Dave Derby of allstar 90s lit-rock crew Gramercy Arms, badass cellist Patricia Santos of the Whiskey Girls; and others at Branded Saloon

2/1, 7 PM riveting, charismatic, intuitive pianist Karine Poghosyan plays the album release show for her new one with works by Coleridge-Taylor, Grieg, Komitas and Liszt at Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, $35 tix avail

2/1, 7:30 PM  the best singing pianist (and the best piano-playing singer) in jazz, Champian Fulton at the Django, $25

2/1, 7:30 PM  eclectic, witty, paradigm-shifting B3 jazz organist Brian Charette at Mezzrow, $25 2/15, 10:30 PM he’s at the Django, $25

2/1, 8/9:30 PM  Transylvanian pianist Lucian Ban with viola sorcerer Mat Maneri at Bar Bayeux. Ban is at Bar Lunatico on 2/7 at 9 PM

2/1, 8:30 PM throwback powerhouse blues belter Shemekia Copeland at City Winery, $20 adm avail

2/1, 8:30 PM loop-driven art-rock instrumentalists Thee Reps at Sisters Brooklyn, 900 Fulton at Washington, A/C to Clinton-Washington, $10

2/2, 7 PM fiery Bollywood and art-rock violinist Rini and Shakthi a.k.a. Bollywood chanteuse Shakthisree Gopalan front their own bands and then join forces for a set at Drom, $20 adv tix avail

2/2, 7 PM entrancing singer Treya Lam – who blends psychedelia, art-rock and oldschool soul – at Joe;s Pub, $15

2/2, 7:30 PM brilliant baritone saxophonist Lauren Sevian leads a quartet at the Django, $25, followed at 10:30 by noir-inspired alto saxophonist/composer Nick Hempton, He’s also at Smalls on 2/12

2/2, 7:30 PM wryly witty, sophisticated art-rock keyboardist and theatrical composer Greta Gertler Gold at the Lincoln Center Atrium, free

2/2, 8 PM ex-Brain Cloud frontwoman Tamar Korn‘s charming torch-swing band Kornucopia at at St. Mazie’s

2/2, 8 PM eclectic pan-Middle Eastern chanteuse Zahra Alzubaidi and surrealist art-song bandleader Leila Adu  at the Owl, $20 sug don

2/2, 8:30 PM ferociously dynamic, tuneful, female-fronted art-rock power trio Castle Black at the Windjammer, 552 Grandview Ave, Ridgewood, $12

2/3, 7 PM punk-jazz guitar cult hero Jack Martin’s Deathwatch at TV Eye, $10

2/3, 7:30 PM sizzling postbop saxophonist Mike DiRubbo’s quartet  at the Django, $25

2/3, 7:30 cynical, amusing, cinematic synthpunk band Marottes play the album release show for their new one at the Parkside

2/3-4, 7:30 PM  tenor sax improv titan George Garzone leads a quartet at Smalls, $25

2/3, 9 PM tuneful, first-class Kenyan reggae crooner Nixon Omollo at Shrine. If you love classic 70s roots reggae, don’t miss this guy.

2/3, 9 PM iconic klemer trumpeter Frank London’s Spiritual Quartet at Bar Lunatico

2/3, 10:30 PM  picturesque jazz pianist Michael Weiss leads a trio the Django, $25

2/3,11 PM iconic Afro-Cuban percussionist/bandleader Pedrito Martinez at Drom, $25. He’s back on 2/23 at 9 PM

2/4, 7 PM a battle-of-the-bands lineup including a showdown between slinky Afrobeat-influenced band Deep Sea Peach Tree vs. catchy powerpop/dreampop band Royal Blush at Our Wicked Lady, $15. Apples and oranges: they’re both good. Noisy lo-fi soul-punk band Hypemom will dispose of their execrable math-rock competitors

2/4, 7 PM the world’s most unpredictably brilliant cinematic guitarist, Steve Ulrich plays his original scores from This American Life with a string quartet followed by a set by his iconic film noir trio Big Lazy at the Sultan Room, $26

2/4. 7 PM darkly torchy southwestern gothic/Europolitan songwriter/guitarist Miwa Gemini, at the downstairs room at the Rockwood, $10

2/4 and 2/9, 7:30 PM bhangra trumpet mastermind Sunny Jain and band at Symphony Space, $35/$25 30 and under

2/4, 8 PM vicious noiserock jamband the the Skull Practitioners– led by Steve Wynn sparring partner/genius guitarist Jason Victor and perennially entertaining punk-soul cult figure Jon Spencer & the Hitmakers at TV Eye, $20

2/4, 8 PM perennially acerbic violin duo String Noise join in an audiovisual performance based on traditional Norwegian knitting patterns with sound artists Stine Janvin and Cory Arcangel at the Clementa Soto Velez auditorium, 107 Suffolk off Rivington, $20

2/4, 9:30 PM  hard-hitting, reverb-iced surf band Strange but Surf, and slinky, Middle Eastern-tinged Pontic surf band the Byzan-tones  at 11 at Otto’s

2/4, 11 PM  80s dancehall reggae hitmaker Sister Nancy  at the Market Hotel, $20

2/5, half past noon/2L390 PM hot 20s jazz trumpeter Jason Prover and band at the Blue Note, $26

2/5, 11 AM chamber jazz  cellist Marika Hughes with eclectic, ambient-tinged guitarist Kyle Sanna  at the Museum of Art & Design, 2 Columbus Cir., $25, coffee/breakfast snacks included

2/5, 2 PM Irish musicians Sean and Deirdre Murtha lead a sea chantey singalong at the South St. Seaport Museum, 12 Fulton St north of the water, free

2/5, 4 PM front porch folk banjo player Allison Kelley – of the Johnson Girls – with her band – at Skinny Dennis

2/5, 5 PM spiky strings galore: Yacouba Sissoko, kora; John Hadfield, percussion; Bridget Kibbey, harp at Our Saviour’s Atonement Lutheran Church, 178 Bennett Avenue at 189th, Washington Heights, $25

2/5, 8 PM sets from ambient, percussive composer Qasim Naqvi, + MIROVAYA LINIYA (Julia Pello & Heinrich Mueller’s Heisenberg Principle-influenced duo) as well as a video installation by Peter Burr at Roulette, $25 adv tix rec

2/5, 8 PM cheery, kinetic 20s hot jazz crew Baby Soda Band at St. Mazie’s. They’re back on 2/12 and 2/26.

2/5, 9 PM choral quartet Agrol Agra sing Bartok works followed by trumpeter Frank London’s ¡No Pasarán! brass band at the Owl, $12 sug don

2/6-7. 7:30 PM alto saxophonist Jesse Davis makes a rare 2-night NYC stand at Smalls with a quartet, $25. He’s also at Mezzrow on 2/10-11

2/6, 8 PM Trio Casals play works by Mozart and Piazzolla at Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, $34 tix avail

2/6, 9 PM unorthodox hot 20s swing string band the Buck and a Quartet Quartet at Skinny Dennis

2/7, 7 PM  funk-jazz crew the Silver Arrow Band at Drom, free. They’re back on  2/22

2/7, 8 PM intense janglerock/Americana/soul songwriter Matt Keating and guitarist Steve Mayone’s catchy project the Bastards of Fine Arts at the small room at the Rockwood

2/8, 9 AM, not a music event but important: thousands of New Yorkers, many of them city workers, are still out of a job after being fired for not taking the lethal Covid injections. Show up and show your support at the rally at Foley Square, downtown across from the courthouse

2/8, 7:30 PM  snidely satirical new wave/80s rock spoofers Office Culture and  hauntingly cinematic Lynchian/southwestern gothic instrumentalists Suss at Public Records, $24

2/8, 8 PM Filharmonie Brno play works by Martinu, Janacek and the New York premiere of Philip Glass’ Symphony No. 12, at Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall, $34 tix avail

2/8, 10:30 PM  lyrical, thoughtful tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander leads a quartet at the Django, $25

2/9, 7 PM carnivalesque Balkan punk monstrosity Funkrust Brass Band and wild, hilarious klezmer punks Golem at Union Pool, $19

2/9, 7:30 PM  tuneful oldschool soul/jazz trombonist Dave Gibson leads a quartet followed by  purist oldschool tenor sax player Craig Handy at the Django, $25

2/9, 7:30 PM  tenor saxophonist Tim Ries and his quartet play Sonny Rollins at Drom, $20 adv tix rec

2/9, 7:30 PM soulful pan-Latin jazz chanteuse Claudia Acuña at the Lincoln Center Atrium, free

2/9, 9 PM relentless noiserock duo the Venus Twins and explosive, theatrical, phantasmagorical indie/metal band A Deer A Horse at TV Eye, $12

2/9, 9 PM edgy, hypnotic harpist/singer Kitba at the Owl

2/10, 10 PM punk night at the small room at the Rockwood – no joke. Fire Is Murder at 10 and then the reliably hilarious Car Bomb Parade. Desperate times, desperate measures.

2/11-12, sets at 10:30., 11:30 AM and 1:30. & 2:30 PM  Metropolis Ensemble play Ricardo Romaneiro’s mutimedia Biophony SoundGarden in sync with plant-generated soundscapes at the Steinhardt Conservatory at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, $18

2/11, 6 PM potentially mesmerizing improvisation: James Ilgenfritz – bass / Sandy Ewen – guitar / Michael Foster – saxes
  at Downtown Music Gallery

2/11, 7 PM dark psychedelic acoustic blues/klezmer/reggae/soca jamband Hazmat Modine at Terra Blues.

2/11, 7:30 PM distinctively intricate, vivid composer/singer/viollinist Caroline Shaw plays Caroline Shaw at Merkin Concert Hall $30

2/11, 8 PM trumpeter Kenny Warren leads an interesting trio with cellist Christopher Hoffman and drummer Nathan Ellman-Bell at Bar Bayeux

2/11, 8 PM the Met Orchestra play Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra, Stravinsky’s Firebird and Moussorgsky’s Dances of Death, yikes, at Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall, $28 tix avail

2/11, 9 PM fiery electric bluegrass and C&W with Demolition String Band at Skinny Dennis  They’re back on 2/27

2/11, 9 PM Innov Gnawa‘s star Moroccan sintir player Samir Langus at Bar Lunatico

2/11, 10:30 PM  fiery, latin-inspired trombonist Mariel Bildstein leads her septet at the Django, $25

2/12, 4 PM the  Harlem Chamber Players play works by Valerie Coleman, Tania León, Frederick Tillis and George Walker’s String Quartet No. 1 at the Dreck Center at the Brooklyn Public Library, free, no under-sixes.

2/12, 9 PM pastoral gothic accordion bandleader Sam Reider with the Jimi Hendrix of the cuatro, Jorge Glem at Bar Lunatico

2/13, 7 PM the New York Composers Circle play new small ensemble music: David Picton’s Piano Sonata No. 1, Kevin McCarter’s Responding Variations for oboe and viola, Tamara Cashour’s This Is Not a Reimagining for piccolo and contrabassoon, and Timothy L. Miller’s Two Settings of Ogden Nash Poems for narrator and piano, U.S. premieres of Ukrainian composer Olga Victorova’s Magic Birds Phung Hoan, Andrei Bandura’s Sonata for Violin and Piano and the New York premiere of David Mecionis’s Trio in Two Parts with an Interval Between, Natalia Medvedovskaya’s Ragtimes for piano solo and Debra Kaye’s Submarine Dreams for bass flute and double bass at the National Opera Center, $20

2/13, 7:30 PM  energetic ragtime/Romany swing guitarist Felix Slim at Cowgirl Seahorse. 2/22 at 8 he’s at St. Mazie’s

2/13, 8 PM the Toronto Symphony play Samy Moussa’s Symphony No. 2, Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole and Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet Suite at Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall, $34 tix avail

2/13, 10:30 PM smartly impressionistic postbop pianist Miki Yamanaka at Smalls. She’s back on 2/27

2/14, half past noon, Italian organist Francesco Bongiorno plays a program tba at Central Synagogue, 54th/Lex, free

2/14, 7 PM jazz vocalist/comedian Eleonor England‘s annual Stabby Valentine’s Day “featuring tunes where someone is betrayed, neglected, forgotten, jilted, left, abandoned, denied, or (in a perfect world) stabbed by their lover at Don’t Tell Mama’s 343 W 46th St between 8th and 9th Ave, $20

2/15, 8 PM the S.E.M. Ensemble play new small-scale orchestral works by Lydia Brindamour, Jordan Dykstra, Jakub Polaczyk, Teodora Stepančić, and Jiaqi Wang at Willow Place Auditorium, 26 Willow Place, Brooklyn Heights, free

2/15, 8 PM lyrical, cerebral pianist Matt Mitchell leads a great trio with Kim Cass on bass and Kate Gentile on drums at Bar Bayeux

2/15, 8 PM violist Miranda Sielaff performs work by Telemann, Ligeti and Stravinsky followed by the Argus Quartet playing Theofanidis works at Seeds

2/15, 9 PM iconic, slinky film noir guitar instrumental jamband Big Lazy at Bar Lunatico

2/16, 7 PM powerful, dynamic clarinetist/composer Michael Winograd leads a killer klezmer band playing a live concert recording of his Tanz album at the Manhattan JCC, $10

2/16, 9 PM intriguingly moody, coldly jangly, female-fronted new wave band Nostranders at Our Wicked Lady, $14. They’re at the small room at the Rockwood on 2/26 at 10 for the tip jar

2/16, 8 PM the Czech National Orchestra play works by Dvorak, Brahms and Beethoven’s Symphony No, 3 at Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall, $34 tix avail

2/16, 8 PM keyboardists Marcia Basssett and Ted Gordon improvise as a duo on the Buchla Music Easel at the Old Stone House in Park Slope, $20

2/17, 7:30 PM merengue band Afro Dominicano at the Lincoln Center Atrium, free

2/17, 7:30 PM rising star trumpeter Adam O’Farrill‘s Stranger Days quintet at Seeds

2/17, 8 PM sound artists Thomas Ankersmit and Dani Dobkin play a 1973 Serge Modular synthesizer at Brooklyn Music School, 126 St. Felix St, $20, any train to Atlantic Ave or G to Fulton

2/17, 8 PM intense, ecstatic oldschool soul band Empire Beats at Silvana

2/17, 10 PM the oud-fueled Sedi Donka Balkan Band at St. Mazie’s

2/18, 5:30 PM a free screening of Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine’s Leonard Cohen documentary Hallelujah at the Dreck Center at the Brooklyn Public Library, free

2/18, 7:30 smart, terse guitarist Mike Moreno leads his quartet at Smalls, $25

2/18, 8 PM  luminous latin-inspired jazz chanteuse Marianne Solivan leads her quartet at Bar Bayeux

2/18. 9 PM brilliant, fearlessly political B3 organist Greg Lewis does his Organ Monk thing at Bar Lunatico

2/19, 11 AM: early music at an early hour, Twelfth Night Ensemble plays a medieval program TBA at the Museum of Art & Design, 2 Columbus Cir., $25, coffee/breakfast snacks included

2/19, 3 PM Ronn McFarlane, lute; Carolyn Surrick, viola da gamba; Yousif Sheronick, percussion play works by Dowland, Purcell, the Allman Bros., English folk tunes and hymns at Concerts on the Slope, St. John’s Episcopal Church, 139 St. John’s Place downhill from 7th Ave,, $25

2/19, 3 PM the New York Virtuoso Singers perform American works including world premieres by Anthony Davis, Peter Zummo, Elena Ruehr, and William McClelland; New York premieres by Tania León, David Patterson, and Edie Hill as well as works by Florence Price, Annea Lockwood, Jessie Montgomery, Mari Esabel Valverde, and Nancy Wertsch, and 18th, 19th and 20th century choral works by William Billings, Charles Ives, at Christ & St Stephen’s Church. 120 W 69th St (bet Broadway and Columbus) $20. 2/25 at 7:30 they sing the choral movements from Bach’s Cantatas 148 through 177, with piano accompanist Will Healy at Merkin Concert Hall, $30

2/19, 5 PM classically-inspired jazz pianist Jason Yeager in a rare duo show with saxophonist Gottfried Stöger at the lounge at  at Hudson View Gardens, 116 Pinehurst Ave, Washington Heights, A to 181st St., $15

2/19, 9 PM 90s allstar janglerock collective Gramercy Arms play the album release show for their new one at the big room at the Rockwood

2/19, 8 PM edgy jazz cellist Hank Roberts at the Owl. 2/20, 9 PM he’s with Aruan Ortiz on piano and Matt Wilson on drums at Bar Lunatico, wow.

2/21, 6:30 PM a wild night of improvisation: drummer Nick Fraser, viola wizard Mat Maneri and bassist Brandon Lopez,  followed at 7:30 by guitarist Aaron Rubenstein solo  and then at 8:30: Active Field with Nana Futagawa on shamisen, Evan Caplinger on cello, Joe Jordan on oboe, Izzy Tanashian on synth and Orchid McRae on drums, wow   at Downtown Music Gallery

2/21, 7 PM sludgy stoner metal band Reverend Mother, thorny heavy psych band Bone Church and killer heavy psych/stoner boogie band El Perro at St. Vitus, $16

2/21, 7:30 charismatic, adventurous postbop/avant garde trombonist/crooner Frank Lacy at Smalls, $25

2/21, 8 PM Mohamed Araki – keyboard Dave Adewumi – trumpet Gideon Forbes – nay Sami Abu Shumays – violin Sarah Mueller – violin Josh Farrar – electric guitar Marwan Allam – bass Johnny Farraj – percussion Philip Mayer – percussion play a tribute to paradigm-shiffting Egyptian keyboardist Hany Mehanna at Sisters Brooklyn, 900 Fulton at Washington, A/C to Clinton-Washington, $20

2/21, 9 PM cinematic, classically-tinged improvisational pianist Miss Kerosene at the small room at the Rockwood

2/22, 8 PMish Mykal Rose, former frontman of roots reggae legends Black Uhuru at SOB’s, $30

2/22. 10 PM boisterously funny oldschool 60s C&W and brooding southwestern gothic with Jack Grace at the Ear Inn

2/22, 10:30 PM purist postbop saxophonist TK Blue leads a quartet at the Django, $25

2/23, 7 PM  pianist Per Tengstrand and a string ensemble play the Grieg Piano Concerto at Scandinavia House, $30

2/23, 7 PM  rustic Piedmont-style blues guitar duo Gordon Lockwood at Terra Blues

2/23, 7:30 PM the Experiental Orchestra play string quartets and other works by Michelle Ross, Jessie Montgomery and Jessica Meyer at Church of the Advent Hope, 111 E 87th St east of Park, $29/$18 stud

2/23 8 PM Judith Hamann plays works for solo cello by microtonal composer Pascale Criton at the Dreck Center at the Brooklyn Public Library, free, no under-sixes.

2/23, 10 PM counterintuitive, whirling, string-driven chamber pop/art-rock band Gadadu at the Owl

2/24-25, 6 PM brilliantly relevant oldtime gospel/Africana music maven Vienna Carroll at the balcony bar at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, free w adm

2/24-25, 7:30 PM cutting-edge B3 organ grooves with the Jared Gold quartet at Smalls, $25

2/24, 7:30 PM purist postbop jazz guitarist Ed Cherry and band followed at 10:30 by clever, purist B3 jazz organist Akiko Tsuruga at the Django, $25

2/24, 10:30 PM pyrotechnic clarinetist Ismail Lumanovski’s ferociously kinetic NY Gypsy All-Stars at Drom, $20 adv tix rec

2/25, 8 PM world-class jazz for the tip jar: revered saxophonist Ravi Coltrane leading a quartet with Luis Perdomo, Drew Gress, EJ Strickland at Bar Bayeux

2/25, 10:30 PM  the great unsung NYC hero of darkly purposeful, noir-tinged jazz guitar, Saul Rubin at Smalls, $25

2/26, 3 PM the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra play Beethoven’s 9th Symphony at Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall, $18 tix avail

2/26, 7:30 PM pianist Illia Ovcharenko plays works by Liszt, Scarlatti, Revutsky and Silvestrov at Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, $18 tix avail

2/26, 8 PM classical chorale the Downtown Voices sing Caroline Shaw’s “To the Hands” at St. Paul’s Chapel downtown, free

2/26, 10:30 PM energetic, inventive, gospel-inspired jazz pianist Pete Malinverni leads his trio at the Django, $25

2/27, 8 PM brilliant keyboard-driven doom metal/heavy psych band Early Moods at St. Vitus, $20

2/28, 7 PM wildfire polymath violist Stephanie Griffin of the Momenta Quartet leads a different quartet playing her new suite for voice, viola, clarinet, and piano at the Americas Society, 680 Park Ave, free,

2/28, 9 PM singer Veronica Davila’s twangy, Bakersfield-flavored hard honkytonk band Low Roller at Skinny Dennis

The Skull Practitioners Hit Queens With Their Most Savagely Tuneful Album in Tow

Nobody plays guitar with as much distinctively feral intensity as Jason Victor. He’ll hang a chord over the edge of a familiar resolution until it bleeds and screams to be pulled back from the abyss, or slash his way through the passing tones like a Sandinista chasing a World Bank operative through the sugarcane. He’s best known for his work as Steve Wynn‘s sparring partner in the Dream Syndicate as well as Wynn’s band the Miracle 3. But Victor is also a bandleader in his own right, and has slowly built an equally savage body of work as frontman of the Skull Practitioners. While you can hear elements of the Stooges, the Gun Club and maybe the Chrome Cranks in his music, there is no band who sound like them. Their new album Negative Stars is streaming at youtube. They’re opening the best twinbill of the year so far on Feb 4 at 8 PM, with Jon Spencer & the Hitmakers headlining at a new venue, TV Eye, at 1647 Weirfield St. between Wyckoff and Cypress in Ridgewood. Cover is $20; take the J/M to Myrtle-Wyckoff and walk about eight blocks.

The album’s first number is Dedication, Victor buzzing and growling over the loose-limbed attack of drummer Alex Baker while bassist Kenneth Levine booms lithely behind them. There’s a bridge that’s part Sonics Rendezvous Band, part Live Skull. All that in about five and half minutes.

Track two is Exit Wounds, a catchy, hard-riffing post-Stooges number propelled by Baker’s staggered stomp: when Levine takes a climb up the scale behind Victor’s acidically floating lines, it could be Radio Birdman. For that matter, so could LEAP, where Victor blends in a more 90s-flavored, acidic, Polvo-style edge.

Hypnotic fuzz guitar and a suspenseful, mutedly echoey syncopation kick off the album’s big epic, Intruder, a mashup of uneasy surf rock, the Dream Syndicate, and the Lords of the New Church (let Victor’s vocals sink in for a minute). “We start apart and we finish alone,” Victor snarls.

Levine gets his fuzz going in What Now, Victor bending his chords and firing off one of his signature, unhinged solos that ends in a flurry of machete-chops. He builds a loopy noir atmosphere and then an increasingly desperate, bittersweet drive as the band rise into a brisk new wave groove in the album’s lone instrumental, Fire Drill.

In the next track, Ventilation, the band work a warped, ominously galloping southwestern gothic take on the Dream Syndicate. The album’s final cut is Nelson D – a reference to former New York Governor, pathological racist and deep state operative Nelson Rockefeller, maybe? Victor howls and wails, building a volcanic interweave with a few finely sharpened, dueling layers over the rhythm section’s ineluctable drive toward chaos. Having picked Steve Ulrich’s eerie Music From This American Life as the frontrunner for best album of 2023, this one’s a contender too.

The Buck and a Quarter Quartet: A Party in a Box in an Unexpected Spot

It’s been estimated that a quarter of this city’s 2019 population left in the months following the 2020 lockdown. Whatever the actual percentage is, it stands to reason that those who could afford to get out, did.

Beyond the Cuomo regime’s throttling of music venues when the disgraced former governor criminalized indoor live performances, the resulting brain drain has no doubt exacerbated the closure of so many former hotspots, both from the demand and the supply side. It also helps explain why an unorthodox 20s hot jazz band like the Buck and a Quarter Quartet would be playing a pseudo-honkytonk like Skinny Dennis, where they’ll be at 9 PM on Feb 6.

Prior to March of 2020, they were a familiar presence in what was left of the Americana scene here, at places which have since fallen victim to the “you comply, you die” trap. Ultimately, it may be a blessing in disguise for this irrepressibly upbeat crew to find a new following off their old turf, because they’re a lot of fun: there’s more room for dancing where they’ll be next week than there was where they used to play.

This band – who seem to be a rotating cast of devoted oldtimey swing players – make 78 RPM records and keep a pretty low profile online. Although their greatest love seems to be obscure and odd treasures from the 20s and 30s, the live clips up at their youtube channel are mostly well-known tunes. But it gives you a good idea of what they’re about.

The quartet expand to a sextet on their take of When I Take My Sugar to Tea, which they do as a pretty straight-up string band shuffle until they leap into doublespeed. Violinist John Landry provides a stark intro and then sings It’s Mating Time, an innuendo-fueled tune undulating along on the beat of John Bianchi’s tenor banjo, Angus Lauten’s baritone uke, Carl Luckert’s National Steel guitar, Ben Mealer’s uke and Brian Nalpeka’s bass.

They strut nonchalantly through a ramshackle version of If I Had You, then Lauten switches to glockenspiel and Nalepka bows his bass to mimic a tuba on a wry, steady take of Deed I Do. Bianchi switches to clarinet for an expansive, upbeat but unexpectedly lush swing through The Very Thought of You, the last of the youtube clips. These guys don’t let you forget for one second that a hundred years ago, jazz was the default party music throughout much of the world, some Williamsburg bars included.

A Magical Microtonal Album and a Lower East Side Gig With Violin Innovators String Noise

The 2020 lockdown didn’t stop violin duo String Noise. Over the past couple of years, avant garde violin luminaries Conrad Harris and Pauline Kim Harris have been releasing albums at an epic pace. Serendipitously, they’re back to playing live again. The duo’s next appearance is a somewhat unusual but aptly wintry one, on Feb 4 at 8 PM at the Clemente Soto Velez communithy center at 107 Suffolk St off Rivington. It’s a collaboration with singer/sound artist Stine Janvin and composer Cory Arcangel, where the two violinists will play scores to accompany an audiovisual performance based on the knitting patterns for traditional Norwegian sweaters. Which might mean cozy, or abrasive – or both. Cover is $20; take the F/J/M to Delancey.

The group’s latest album, Way, comprises a trio of texturally delicious microtonal works, streaming at New Focus Recordings. They open with Alex Mincek‘s magically disquieting, microtonal suite, referencing an enigmatic Antonio Machado poem whose central road metaphor could be either liberation or a huis clos. Interestingly, the composer quotes Samuel Beckett in the liner notes.

They begin with muted puffing white noise, up to a steady stride with increasingly acidic microtones and harmonics as the music reaches toward horror. Artful approximations of a minor chord and a tritone shift ever so slightly. Slowly, the two voices begin to diverge and follow separate paths, the harmonies growing warmer and more diverse. There’s a second movement that starts with an approximation of a drifting snowstorm, which builds momentum even as the music becomes more spacious, the steps spaced further apart along with the harmonies. The slow procession eventually reaches an ending that may take you by surprise. It’s as entrancing as it is hypnotic: what a way to open the record!

Up next is Lou Bunk’s five-part suite, Field. The first movement has spritely microtonal flickers that build, fall away and drift delicately into the ether, only to spring back into action, finally up to a slashing peak and then gracefully back down. The duo end it with a series of gently sirening glissandos.

Movement two is more wispy and sepulchral; the next more spacious and surprising, with the occasional doppler effect. The violinists follow a tightly spiraling interweave in the fourth movement and wrap it up with a brief coda that flits by almost imperceptibly.

The album’s final work is (In) Tone, by Catherine Lamb. Uneasy, slow tectonic shifts drift through the sonic frame and diverge like a raga at one-tenth speed. Notwithstanding the glacial pace, the wary atmosphere seldom lifts; likewise, the shimmering harmonics and otherworldly close harmonies. Fans of music that defies the western scale have a feast to sink their ears into here.